The Internet is now the library of the past. Where the public library has historically served as the primary source of information gathering and dissemination, we now look to this new virtual, infinitely large library that can be accessed anywhere at any time as the Library of the present.
As a result, the primary roles of today’s physical libraries have shifted. Libraries of the past focused primarily on individualized information consumption. Communal aspects of interaction and information dissemination now represent the core mission of the library when information is more easily accessible. The silent grand beaux-arts reading rooms of New York or Boston have of the past been transformed into flexible communal “living rooms” in Seattle.
Community Driving Design
This new purpose is deeply considered in library design today. Recent library designs such as Tama Art University Library (Toyo Ito), Musashino Art University Museum & Library (Sou Fujimoto), and Steven Holl’s planned Queens Library at Hunterspoint all aim to provide spaces of communal interaction that would bring the patrons of each library together in different ways.
The snake-like tables of Ito’s Tama Art University Library coupled with its panoramic open views to the exterior go a long way in fostering a community atmosphere extends into the library from the surrounding campus. The forest-like arches that support the building and divide interior space create a spectrum of individual and communal spaces based on their density. The low curvilinear bookshelves on the second floor are placed not to optimize the number of books stored but rather to create corridors of varying width that allow for the insertion of communal sitting areas within the stacks.
In Sou Fujimoto’s Musashino Art University Museum & Library, community space exists interstitial to the bookshelves of the library. The wrapping bookshelf-walls exist in a spiraling fashion where information is accessed from them and then brought into the voids created by them to be shared, absorbed, and disseminated with others. Voids within the walls allow one to view into the center of the library and see the way in which media is being accessed and shared.
Section is the primary factor in demarcating communal space in Steven Holl’s proposed Queens Library at Hunterspoint. The stepped stacks and reading areas that exist within the main volume of the building overlook both the Manhattan skyline across the east river and a central entry area that contains the primary gathering area. Holl sees the building as being pourous in its relationship to Manhattan and in the way in which it exists in relationship to the community.